Food Molds
Research at the California Academy of Sciences



Jelly moldsThe food molds shown here are part of a tradition that developed in England between the Middle Ages and the 19th century. Pudding, ice cream and jellies in the 19th century were symbols of sophistication and status. Pudding also was used as a love-offering as described in Victorian stories such as Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and The Wide, Wide World by E. Wetherell, published in 1868 and 1850, respectively.

Ice cream molds

Pewter Ice Cream Molds (far left and second from left). With fruit on the tops. Standard hallmark of British Empire in diamond shape in the internal base. Date: July 22nd 1868. This hallmark was used by British manufacturers beginning in 1842. CAS 0389-1268A-C & 0389-0725A-C

Pewter Ice Cream Mold (second from right). With grapes and leaves on lid. Standard hallmark of British Empire in diamond shape engraved on lid. Date: June 9th 1877. CAS 0389-1269A-C

Pewter Ice Cream Mold (far right). With fruit on lid. British hallmark in the internal base: "BIERTUMPFELL & SON MAKERS 18 ALBANY ST. LONDON." A similar mold is described in Book of Ices, written by Mrs. Marshall and published in 1900. Date: late 19th century. CAS 0389-1270A-D

Aspic, paté molds

Iron Fish Mold (left). Used in fish-flavored aspics or mousses. CAS 0389-0972

French Pewter Mold or Pâté Mold (right). Open at both ends. Presented in Mrs. Marshall's Cookery Book (1887-1900). CAS 0389-0715A,B

Most people today are familiar with molded gelatin desserts, especially the brand name "Jell-O," made from pre-flavored and pre-sweetened jellies which are dissolved in hot water, poured into a mold, allowed to set, and then turned out onto a plate. Such easily prepared desserts, however, are derived from much older traditions that required long and painstaking preparations, resulting in foods which only the wealthy could afford. Making crystal-clear jelly was no easy task. First meat or fish was simmered in a pot and allowed to cool leaving a translucent jelly on the top. This jelly was then further reduced by boiling and clarified with egg white. The result was a versatile cooking ingredient that readily retained the original colors, scent and flavors of other foods. It could be molded into a variety of shapes, or its texture could by altered by beating it to a froth, or by adding cream, ground meat, almonds or other ingredients. Its most appealing quality was its transparency.

Although jellies are mentioned as early as the 14th century in a courtly manuscript recipe, it was not until the late 18th and early 19th centuries that the basic jelly-making techniques were well established in England. Thereafter, clear jellies were made in new shapes using a variety of fancy molds such as those shown here. To use these molds, cooks devised efficient methods of turning the jellies out, while at the same time, maintaining the fine surface detail. Once turned out of its mold, the jellies or flummery could be colored in a realistic or fanciful manner. Operations became easier with the development of the industrial jellies.

Jelly mold, CAS 0389-0957 Copper Jelly Mold. No hallmarks. One like this is in Hampshire County Museum. Date: late 19th century. CAS 0389-0957

Jelly molds Jelly Molds with Cross and Orbe Mark. Date: late 19th century.
Back row, left to right: CAS 0389-0958, 0389-0961, 0389-0710
Front row, left to right: CAS 0389-0711, 0389-0971, 0389-0824, 0389-0970

The following recipe for a dessert gelatin, Gelée de Fruits Marbe, is taken from The Victorian Cookbook, and was prepared by Chef Alex Soyer between 1830 and 1848 and served at the Reform Club, a famous Liberal Club in London.

Victorians loved jellies and creams that allowed you to look through a clear jelly into a decorated cream inside. Such desserts were made in ornate molds so the outside jelly could be set before it was filled with cream.

1 pkg of flavored gelatin

1 cup hot water

2/3 cup fruit liqueur

Fruit to decorate the inside of the jelly

3 large egg yolks

1 cup warmed milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons extra-fine sugar

Melt half the gelatin in half the water. Gradually add the remaining water and 1/4 cup of the liqueur and allow to cool. Using sunflower or similar very light-tasting oil, oil the interior of a 1 quart mold and the exterior of a 1 1/4 pint mold lightly. Pour the jelly mixture into the large mold. Put the smaller mold inside and fill with tins or weights until jelly rises just to the sides of the inner mold. Freeze both molds. When the jelly is completely set, remove the weights and pour a little boiling water into the inside mold. Swish it around for a minute, then lift out inner mold. Return molded gelatin to freezer for several minutes. Meanwhile slice the fruit thinly, then arrange it in desired pattern inside molded gelatin. Put the egg yolks in a heavy pan or a double boiler and stir in the sugar briskly. Stir mixture continuously over low heat and gradually add the warmed milk. Cook gently until the custard thickens slightly, then remove it from the heat. Melt the remaining gelatin in the remaining liqueur and stir into the custard. Cool completely. Whip the cream with a whisk lightly until it just holds its shape, then fold it into the custard. Spoon the custard mixture carefully into the jelly. Freeze for two hours. To serve, dip the outer mold in hot water and invert onto plate.



The next recipe is called Victorian apricot, peach or nectarine pudding, from Johnston's Cook and Housewife's Manual, from the 19th century . This is a very delectable sweet that a nineteenth century cook says could also be "an iced pudding." 

2 oz fresh white bread crumbs

1 round tablespoon castor sugar

4 whole peaches, or 8 large apricots, or 12 Victorian plums

2 egg yolks

1 egg white

1 tablespoon white wine

1/2 pint double cream

Put the bread crumbs in a bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling. Pour over the crumbs and stir to blend. Cover the bowl and leave until cool, then stir in the egg yolks, wine and sugar. Poach the fruit in a little water until barely tender, then drain. When cool enough to handle, skin the fruit and remove the stones. Puree the fruit in a sieve or food mill, then stir the puree into the cream and bread crumb mixture. Whisk the egg white until stiff and fold into the mixture. Pour into a shallow oven dish. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes. Serve hot with a bowl of lightly whipped cream.

 Pudding molds

Copper Tin Mold (left). Also called baba cake mold or old German pound cake mold. CAS 0389-0928

Copper Tin Mold (center). For old-fashioned puddings. CAS 0389-0708

Oval Copper Mold or Melon Mold (right). A popular pattern in Europe and North America. Used for puddings, ice cream and jelly. The same pattern was advertised in American Home Cookbook (1854). CAS 0389-0705


Ice cream moldBIBLIOGRAPHY

The Victorian Cookbook. New York, Interlink Books. 1989
The Jane Austen Cookbook. Chicago, Chicago Review Press. 1995
"Transparent Pleasure: The Story of Jelly: Parts One & Two," Petits Propos Culinaires , No. 53-54. London, London Prospect Books Ltd.

"Puddings as Love-Offerings," Petits Propos Culinaires, No. 47. London, London Prospect Books Ltd.

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